In fifth grade, I endured some low-level bullying when the popular girls wrote me nasty notes and wouldn't let me sit at their lunch table. Given what kids endure today, it was relatively minor. When I told my parents they reacted rationally. They told me to reach out to new people and to "turn the other cheek." Ultimately, the experience was intense enough that my parents opted to switch me to another school.
This was in 1985.
Fast forward 30 years, set the bullying in the Midwest, and picture this: The mother of a bullied teen confronted her son's aggressors, cursed them out, accused them of being drug dealers and then pulled a gun on them. Yes, a St. Louis mother, after her son sent a text asking for her protection from bullies, took a loaded gun to a public park, and brandished it in front of a group of teenagers.
The mother, Tracy Lesser, said that she brought the gun as a "safeguard" against "being killed." While she claimed she didn't intend to use the loaded gun, in a "worst-case scenario" she admitted she would have used it.
When and if my children end up on the receiving end of bullying, I'm going to come out swinging.
After sending my mother a text thanking her for finding a solution other than bringing a loaded firearm to our neighborhood park, I tried to empathize with Ms. Lesser. When and if my children end up on the receiving end of bullying, I'm going to come out swinging. I won't sit by and let my babies fall prey to some thugs looking to degrade or hurt my children.
But a loaded gun? Surely, there must be better solutions to bullying. Of course there are. I challenged myself to come up with at least eight.
Here are actions to take if your child is being bullied that are more appropriate, sane, constructive and safe than whipping out your pistol.
1. Call the police
If the situation involves older children who themselves may have access to weapons, get the authorities involved.
2. Get the school involved
Teachers and school administrators are trained to deal with these situations, and it's likely that they will know of tensions or situations that usually erupt at school. Let them help you and your family navigate the treachery of bullying.
3. Talk to other parents
Maybe you don't want to talk to the aggressors' parents for obvious reasons. Experts say you shouldn't contact them directly anyway. But talk to the parents in your community who know your child and who know the bullies. Get support for your child and your family and think through solutions. Maybe other parents have been through the same thing.
4. Get your child to safety
If your child texts you asking for protection, your first priority should be getting him or her to safety. I'm thinking a safe house or lock him in your own house.
5. Get your kid away from the bullies
If the situation is extreme, transfer schools. If your child's health and safety are at issue, get him away from the situation.
6. Focus on your child
Focusing on your child's safety and well-being should be the first priority. She needs to know you take her seriously, which you can do by listening to her and talking with her about how to keep herself safe.
7. Get professional help for your child
A bullied child may need extra support from a professional to work through the trauma of enduring bullying. Listen to your child and offer to get him or her more support through counseling or a support group.
8. Take a bubble bath/drink a latte/take deep breaths
Having a kid in a crisis is stressful for a parent. It can make you irrational. Once your kid is safe and you've heard him out, take a moment for yourself. Being sure that you are in a good emotional place will help you think clearly about how to parent your child through a stressful situation. What your kid needs most is for you to have your head on straight, not for you to grab your glock and start screaming.